Hay Festival Winter Weekend closes on an optimistic note

Hay Festival Winter Weekend closed Sunday 25 November 2018 after a four-day global celebration of ideas with campaigners Ziauddin Yousafzai and Gina Miller, writers Rose Tremain, Horatio Clare and Jeanette Winterson; space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock; “Queen of Shops” Mary Portas; journalists James O’Brien, Oliver Bullough, and Mark Urban; bestselling historians Helen Parr, Andrew Roberts, Tracy Borman, Andrew Green and Simon Jenkins; and performers Marcus Brigstocke, Gwyneth Glyn, Mid-Wales Opera.

Over nine thousand tickets were sold to Festival Tent events over the weekend, while hundreds more enjoyed town festivities including Hay Food Festival, Hay Vintage Fair, the Winter Wayzgoose, and the Christmas light switch-on, led by Kate Humble.

Now in its 19th year, this year’s programme was the most ambitious yet, blending literary conversation, immersive performances and family workshops. Best-selling books were James O’Brien’s How to be Right; Horatio Clare’s Something of His Art; Gina Miller’s Rise; Ziauddin Yousafzai’s Let Her Fly and Simon Jenkins A Short History of Europe; while Inventing Ourselves by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore was named Hay Festival Book of the Year 2018 following a call-out for public nominations.

Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival, said: “What a fabulous weekend of thoughtful, optimistic happiness. And of people coming together and trading stories, dancing out of the Brexitshambles and celebrating humanity and friendship.”

Novelist Jeanette Winterson said: “It’s the time of year we need some internal sunshine and that’s what this is. It’s a place where there’s light and there’s warmth and a lot of fun.”

Explore highlights from the weekend on Hay Player and the Hay Festival blog now.

Hay Festival Winter Weekend highlights:

Real-life stories of entrepreneurism and justice against the odds inspired: Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala, talked Let Her Fly: A Father’s Journey and the Fight for Equality; campaigner Gina Miller presented Rise!; and 'Queen of Shops' Mary Portas offered her thoughts on improving workplaces, Work Like a Woman.

Nature and the outdoors were explored as Horatio Clare offered his extraordinary travelogue Something of his Art: Walking to Lübeck with J.S. Bach and ode to winter, The Light in the Dark; and broadcaster Kate Humble presented her reflections on a year spent walking, Thinking on my Feet. And, following last autumn’s planting of the first plot of Hay Festival’s 30th Anniversary Wood, the Woodland Trust returned with a series of Tree ID walks and woodland explorations, ahead of further public plantings in 2019.

World affairs were drawn into focus: BBC Newsnight’s diplomatic editor Mark Urban discussed the explosive story of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in The Skripal Files; investigative reporter Oliver Bullough presented his study of the lawless, stateless super-rich, Moneyland; broadcaster James O’Brien presented his new guide on talking to people with different opinions, How to Be Right; and a special What do we do now? session saw a festival panel discuss Brexit and the American Mid-Term elections.

History was revisited as Hennessy Award-winning historian Helen Parr spoke to Lieutenant General Sir Cedric Delves about his memoir Across an Angry Sea, The SAS in The Falklands War and her new book Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper; Andrew Roberts presented Churchill: Walking With Destiny; bestselling writer Tracy Borman talked Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him; former National Librarian of Wales Andrew Green presented Wales in 100 Objects; and Simon Jenkins delivered his short history of Europe, From Pericles to Putin.

Great fiction was celebrated as award-winning writer Rose Tremain revisited her 2008 novel The Road Home; while Jeanette Winterson offered an evening of candlelit storytelling from her Christmas Stories collection of evocative festive shorts.

Cosmic adventures are led by lunar expert and space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who took audiences to the moon and back with The Sky at Night: Book of the Moon, while workshops for young people included Indian Cookery and Bollywood dance classes.

Comedy, music and performances kicked the evenings off in style.There was Friday night comedy from Marcus Brigstocke, whose new Devil May Care show aims to establish, for once and for all, what is good and what is bad about the world today; Saturday night entertainment from writer, poet and musician Gwyneth Glyn, who performed from her new album, Tro, in Welsh and English. St Mary’s Church hosted Mid-Wales Opera’s L’heure Espagnole by Ravel; organist, composer and vicar of St Mary’s Church Father Richard Williams performed his live accompaniment to the silent Dracula movie Nosferatu using the church’s Bevington organ; and the festival closed with a now traditional Sunday evening concert, from Fiona Evans and choir.

Meanwhile, the town’s iconic market square remained a focus of festivities with the Hay Christmas lights switch-on event on Friday 23 November; Hay Food Festival on Saturday 24 November; and Hay Does Vintage fair on Sunday 25 November.

Hay Festival Winter Weekend in quotes…

“What fiction can do, better than anything else, is take the story of one person and make it the story of us all” – Rose Tremain.

“In this dark world, we have the light in ourselves to offer to those of like mind and like heart, in sharing friendship, tolerance and inclusivity. It’s about love” – Jeanette Winterson.

“Leavers believed the politicians. They believed what they were told and they felt ignored. We had become lazy and too comfortable. I would like to thank them, for they shed a light where we forgot to look… This is only the end of the beginning” – Gina Miller.

“Everything we do should be informed by respecting the dignity and humanity of others” – Helena Kennedy.

“When we see something like Salisbury, we think of thrillers and spy fiction. It is a remarkable story, but it is also one about the reality of ruined lives” – Mark Urban.

“We live in a compound time. A depthless moment. The world is atoms in flux; it’s energy and matter. Reality is much deeper and broader than we give it credit for...” – Horatio Clare.

“Britain has left the EU nine times since the Romans; eight of those times we have re-joined” – Simon Jenkins.

“Brexit means Brexit. Take back control. Lock her up. MAGA. These slogans are the tickets that excuse people from thinking” – James O’Brien.

“It was scary to speak against the Taliban, but it was scarier not to raise your voice. It’s better to die than to live without dignity, basic freedom, basic rights” – Ziauddin Yousafzai.

“If we don’t start organising to tackle it, to assert some democratic control over unaccountable wealth, the very future of our civilisation is at stake” – Oliver Bullough.

Explore more highlights from the weekend on Hay Player and the Hay Festival blog now. 

Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2019 takes place 28 November - 1 December.